The Holidays are a stressful time, even without having to contend with a gift-giving themed villain called The Wrapper. Still, Barbara Gordon (a.k.a. Batgirl) is determined to enjoy some quality time with her friends at The Gordon Clean Energy Company Holiday Party… even if they are stuck sharing the best bar in Burnside with a party being held by Bradley Burr – a smarmy CEO whose politics are nearly as disgusting as the way he treats women.
Normally Barbara wouldn’t object to a guy like Burr getting what’s coming to him. Unfortunately, Burr’s misdeeds have put him in the cross-hairs of The Princess of Pranksters, Harley Quinn. And while Harley’s intentions may be good (well… good-ish), she’s never cared much about little things like collateral damage when it comes to delivering a whoopin’ to someone who deserves it.
Hence Harley’s crashing the party and releasing a little virus called “The Spirit of Christmas”. Bradley Burr has 24 hours to discover the reason for the season or a whole lot of innocent people (and him) are going to die. This leaves Barbara and her friends playing The Spirits of Christmas to Burr’s Scrooge in a desperate rush to save their (and his) employees.
I want to like Batgirl #18 more than I did. Unfortunately, Hope Larson’s script goes up to 11 in its portrayal of Bradley Burr as a scumbag of the highest order. It is not enough to reveal that he once worked at a food bank for one afternoon as part of an effort to get some woman into bed with him. We also have to be told that his only charity work is donating huge sums of money to anti-LGBTQ groups.
This lack of subtlety is beneath Larson, though it is far from the most egregious example of an author slipping one’s personal politics into a story. And I say that as someone who agrees with Larson’s politics! I also have to take issue with her portrayal of Harley Quinn, which doesn’t jibe with Harley’s most recent portrayals as a kindhearted but crazy anti-hero who isn’t much for thinking things through. I can’t believe that Harley would honestly poison a whole crowd just to get to one man. Not when crushing his skull with a mallet is so much more satisfying!
It’s a shame because otherwise this issue is flawless. The artwork by Sami Basri looks fantastic throughout. Basri’s style is incredibly animated, perfectly capturing the humor of Larson’s writing and the slapstick nature of Harley Quinn’s traps as Burr explores his past. It is well-paired with Jessica Kholinne’s vibrant colors and Deron Bennett’s excellent lettering.
As far as holiday one-shots go, Batgirl #18 is fairly harmless. The action is satisfying enough and well captured by the art. There are several honest laughs in the dialogue and the book looks amazing. The only problem is that, in her effort to create a modern-day Scrooge, Hope Larson has made a villain who would be too over-the-top for Green Arrow – a comic whose primary villains, it should be noted, are a cabal of Satanic slave-trading bankers! Get past that point, however, and this is one fine book.